C is one the oldest languages still in active use today, first created 1972 by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs it has gone through many revisions as the years have progressed with the most recent edition C11 released early in 2011.

The language is developed by committee who write a standard which compiler developers then use as a basis for their implementations. This usually means different features are supported to different extents depending on your choice of compiler. This sometimes means that developers adhere to the C99 or ANSI standards to maximize support across platforms

C has been a hugely influential language and has inspired the design of many of the newer languages including C++, Java, Go, Python and many, many more. C has been and still is so popular due to the fact it is extremely portable, chances are a compiler exists for almost any processor architecture out there. C is also one of the fastest languages in existence and you will often see benchmarks for new languages compare themselves with it.

But that speed comes at a cost, anything but the simplest of tasks are left to the programmer. This means when programming in C you have to manage your own memory, perform bound checks on arrays and more. If you forget to ensure you don’t accidentally access memory you have no right to you can introduce a bug that will crash your program. Or worse still a hacker can exploit this bug and inject malicious code into your program and get the computer to do nearly anything they want

If you would like more information about the history or evolution of this language then you can follow this link


C is heavily used for working with hardware, so many device drivers and operating systems such as Linux are implemented in C. Its performance means it’s a popular choice for real-time systems and applications such as video games. Also languages such as Python, Perl and PHP all have their interpreters written in C.

Below is a list of applications that use C:

Some Code

Hello World:

#include <stdio.h>

int main (int argc, char* argv[])
    printf("Hello, World!\n");

    return 0;

A little program that will count the number of lines in a file:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdbool.h>

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
    // Check that enough arguments were given
    if(argc != 2)
        fprintf(stderr, "Usage:\n\tcount_lines <filename>\n");
        return 1;

    // Try and open the file
    FILE* fp;
    if (!(fp = fopen(argv[1], "r")))
        fprintf(stderr, "Unable to open file %s\n", argv[1]);
        return 1;

    // Initialise some variables
    const unsigned int buffer_length = 4096;
    char buffer[buffer_length];
    unsigned int num_lines = 0;

    // Loop through the file
    while (true)
        // Get the next line
        fgets(buffer, buffer_length, fp);

        // Check if we reached the end of the file

        // Increment the line counter

    // Close the file

    // How many lines was that?
    printf("The file %s contains %u lines\n", argv[1], num_lines);

    return 0;

Some Useful Libraries/Tools

Many tools and libraries have sprung up over the years to make working with C easier, so below we’ve compiled a list that gives you an idea of what is available.

Disclaimer: Since I have only ever developed on Linux for Linux, this list will have a heavy bias towards Linux, not everything below will be available for Windows and/or Mac.


C is what is known as a compiled language, where the code you write is translated into machine code and then stored in a binary file ready to be run. So to be able to develop in C it is absolutely essential that you use a compiler.

Debuggers and Profiliers

Because C is so low level (by today’s standards) there are many places where bugs can appear in your program, so tools have been developed to help you find and fix many of the most common bugs and help you hunt down a few of the more obscure ones. Profilers help you find out which parts of your code are slowing your program down and help you find ways to speed it up.

  • GDB Debugger
  • Perf a Linux tool that profiles your code’s performance with stats like cache usage and instruction throughput on the CPU
  • Valgrind a tool to help debug/optimise C code helps spot memory leaks, race conditions also includes heap, cache and branch prediction profilers


A library is a collection of code written by a third party designed to make your life easier by performing certain tasks for you. This could be anything from drawing graphics on screen to reading a certain type of file for you.

  • Check a unit testing library for C

Build Tools

Compiling large C programs can be a pain, it often requires performing multiple commands over 10s to 1000s of source files, not to mention including all the correct references to libraries etc. Fortanately there are tools out there that help to automate this process for you:

  • CMake a cross platform build system that writes build scripts for whichever platform it’s currently being used on.

Getting Started

There haven't been any getting started tutorials written for this yet! Have you had any experience with this language before? If so how about getting involved and help us fix this by contributing a guide for others to follow!


There haven't been any tutorials written for this yet! Have you had any experience with language before? If so how about getting involved and help us fix this by contributing a guide for others to follow!